Kursk condition fuzzy

Publish date: June 25, 2001

Written by: Igor Kudrik

The Russian Northern Fleet intends to send a whole flotilla for recovering the Kursk, seems to be preparing for the worst-case scenario.

The ship Mayo will start from Aberdeen in the UK and head for the Barents Sea to the place of the Kursk accident on July 2nd. The ship is expected to arrive to the submarine on July 13th. The ship will bring Norwegian and Russian divers, who will begin installing radiation monitoring equipment and video cameras around the sunken submarine.

The head of the Rubin design bureau, Igor Spassky, said that the project description to lift the Kursk submarine will be completed in one or one and half week and sent to the Navy for approval. The Rubin bureau is the designer of the Kursk and is in charge of the technical part of the lifting operation from the Russian side. Spassky also said the Dutch Mammoet, contracted by the Russian government a month ago to raise the Kursk, are making specials grips to hook the submarine and they "think over how to upgrade the barge", provided by Dutch Smit International, so it could cope with the Kursk. According to Spassky, the barge would have to be modified in a way so that the superstructure of the submarine could fit in. The barge will also have to be equipped with more than 20 hydro-lifts and reinforcements have to be welded into it so they could hold the steel cables used to raise the submarine up.

"All those works have to be conducted in a matter of two months with high precision and quality," Spassky added.

The submarine will be later towed to a shipyard in Roslyakovo at the Kola Peninsula. "At that stage the most demanding task would be to fasten the submarine to the barge properly," Spassky said. The lifting operation itself it scheduled to take place by mid September and will last only for eight hours, Russian officials said earlier.

The Northern Fleet is also reportedly preparing for the lifting of the Kursk, intending to send a whole flotilla to the area. It is planned to dispatch to the site nuclear powered cruiser Peter the Great and cruiser Marshal Ustinov, as well as antisubmarine vessels Admiral Kharlamov and Severomorsk. In addition, the Northern Fleet will also send its whole rescue fleet comprised of Rudnitsky, Altay, Pamir and four mini rescuer submarines. The hydrographical ships Makulevich and GS-87 and also floating hospital, Svir, and two tankers Terek and Gasanov will be also engaged in the operation. The Northern Fleet will also tow to the site a couple of floating cranes and other auxiliary vessels. Five helicopters and two transport aircrafts will be assigned to the operation too.

The rescue ships had been undergoing repairs right after the Kursk accident. The funding is stable and the ships will be fit by the time the lifting operation starts, Aleksandr Teslenko, the head of the Northern Fleet’s rescue service, said in an interview with Northern Fleet’s daily Na Strazhe Zapolyarya, or Guarding the North.

Although Russian officials try not to dramatise the situation, the condition of the reactors, torpedoes in the bow section and missiles placed on both boards of the submarine seems to be a fuzzy picture. And nobody can predict with a certain degree of confidence what kind of developments can be expected when the lifting operation is underway. This explains, perhaps, the fact that the Northern Fleet intends to dispatch such a great number of vessels to the area preparing for the worst-case scenario.